The UNT Center for Leadership Studies held its second annual MLK Jr. Day of Service on Monday, Jan. 20. The event, held in conjunction with the UNT Multicultural Center and the Office of Outreach, encouraged community members to rethink the day honoring the late pastor and activist by serving their community.
The morning began with brunch held in the atrium of the Business Leadership Building. During the meal, members of the Eta Epsilon chapter of the Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity, the same fraternity of which Dr. King was a member, reflected on why they wanted to participate in the day of service.
“He was for everybody,” construction engineering senior Jonathon Scruggs said of Dr. King. “He was for the people.”
Following brunch, the program included guest speakers that encouraged the attendees toward the spirit of service and activism.
“Success won’t come fast, but you will be heard,” said Gerard Hudspeth, District 1 city councilperson and mayor pro tempore, as he encouraged attendees to get involved with politics on the local level.
Hudspeth, who will soon begin his mayoral campaign for the 2020 election year, also talked about the importance of fostering relationships and standing as a united front to enact change.
“Wind chimes are super noisy, but you never see what’s making them move,” Hudspeth said. “You never see what’s making that noise, but you know it’s there and it’s effective.”
Brandon Watts, UNT alumnus and Executive Director of “Develop University,” a mentoring program, talked about the experience he had in coming to UNT and how he advocates service as mentorship. He said he believes college students can give back to younger students at the grade school level.
“Build that stepping stone,” Watts said. “Those little kids are going to be looking at college kids the way we look at [Dr. King] right now.”
Following the guest speakers, attendees helped give back by creating kits for local nonprofits. Some volunteers created “comfort kits” that included coloring books, journals and personalized notes written by volunteers themselves.
Other volunteers, like criminal justice senior Charles Freeman, made kits that included brooms and cleaning supplies for Denton County Friends of the Family, intended to be given to people who are moving into a new place after experiencing housing insecurity. Freeman said he appreciated witnessing the unity that the event brought about.
“I love seeing young people come together to do things like this,” Freeman said. “It shows [the older generations] that we do care.”
Though Freeman said he felt a sense of community, he wanted to see more students come to donate their time and service.
“Even if people miss the first half, they’re always going to go to the rally,” Freeman said. “I would just hope that in the future people would participate in everything.”
As he predicted, more members of the UNT and Denton community came to the rally and march later that afternoon. After gathering at the University Union and listening to a short speech by a member of Alpha Phi Alpha, the march went through Denton’s historic Downtown Square on its way to the MLK Jr. Recreation Center on Wilson Street.
Upon arriving, those who marched filed into open seats alongside their fellow community members and stood along the back walls of the center’s gymnasium once seats were filled.
The ending of the march led to the beginning of a celebration service and dinner hosted by the center that concluded the day of events. The service included a singing of the Black national anthem, performances, information about participating in the 2020 census and a message from Elder Clarence Harden of the St. Andrew Church of God in Christ, as he reflected on Dr. King’s work.
During his words, he asked attendees to embody the heart of Dr. King as they went back into the world and faced its everyday challenges.
Featured Image: Two young girls take the lead of the Martin Luther King Jr. walk on Monday Jan. 20, 2020. Image by Samuel Gomez